Identifying Character Strengths for Better Well-Being
Self-improvement is a popular endeavor amongst people of all backgrounds, whether focusing on character strengths, personal achievement, or any other personal milestones we may set. Those of us who are polyamorous, ethically non-monogamous, swingers, or otherwise alternatively inclined are no exception because of the requirements to keep these relationship dynamics healthy.
I mean, who doesn’t want to be a better version of themselves, right? We’re already amazing as we are, but there’s always something for us to improve on.
Unfortunately, we sometimes take it a little too far in our American culture. We seek ways to be “the best,” even if it’s to our detriment. We want the best job, the best house, the best car, or the best clothes. We want to be the best in our work, the best in our side hustles, the best in our hobbies, the best at sports or the best at whatever we do that’s supposed to just be for fun. We’re constantly looking for ways to assert ourselves in these positions.
Here’s a thought, albeit not an original one. Rather than trying to improve performance, productivity, or skill, what if we focused on trying to improve our well-being instead?
It’s possible that when people set out to be the best whatever they want to be, there’s a part of them that believes it will improve their overall sense of well-being. They think (on a subconscious level, even if they don’t say it out loud), “If I could achieve (fill in the blank), then I would be worthy of love.”
The truth, of course, is that we are all worthy of love, acceptance, appreciation, and all the things we want for ourselves, regardless of how we show up in this world and what we do or don’t do.
Whether an average Joe or a spectacular Sue, we are worthy of love. Whether we’re gay or straight or anywhere else on the spectrum of sexuality, serial monogamists or polyamorous swingers, or whether we’re DTF or looking for a profound connection, this universal truth holds. We are worthy of love, and when we focus on improving our well-being over anything else, this truth finally clicks for us.
What are Your Character Strengths?
Positive Psychology professionals have spent years researching ways to improve personal well-being. One way to do so, they’ve discovered, is through the intentional development of character strengths.
There are 24 universal character strengths found across cultures and time. As it turns out, developing our character strengths (any of them) is predictive of well-being, especially if we focus on the growth of our signature strengths over the long term.
Let’s back up for a second, though. First things first, what exactly are all these character strengths?
They are as follows:
- Social Intelligence
- Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence
- Love of Learning
A person’s character comes together at the intersection of their thoughts, feelings, and actions. That means a thought or feeling by itself does not determine our character. The actions we take in tandem with our thoughts and feelings must also be taken into consideration and often mean more to the people around us than what we think when we do it.
Even if someone doesn’t mean to hurt us, they still did or can, right?
Furthermore, your character is not fixed or unchangeable. It can be grown and improved upon over time and with practice.
Seeking Better Well-Being through Character Development
If better well-being is our goal, in addition to focusing on our signature strengths, specific strengths correlate with better overall well-being more than others.
For instance, Humility is not individually correlated with well-being. That doesn’t mean humility isn’t essential or that it doesn’t have a role to play. It just means that so far, research has not shown having humility will increase personal well-being on its own.
On the other hand, hope, gratitude, love, and humor are all highly correlated with well-being. Research indicates that, overall, the best predictor of well-being is gratitude.
Now, the question is, how do we develop our character strengths? Are there any specific practices we can engage in to work toward being more hopeful, loving, humorous and grateful?
The answer is yes, and self-awareness is the first step toward developing our character strengths. We need to observe how these strengths already show up within us. We need to notice when we feel and express love, gratitude, humor, and hope in our everyday life. What are our thoughts, feelings and actions related to these character strengths?
We’ll also want to notice how we feel when others in our lives express those strengths. Does it make us happy? Angry? Do we find it annoying? Are we appreciative? We must self-reflect and try to understand our current relationships with ourselves and those around us.
Ways to Practice Improving Character Strengths
For some people, simply sitting and reflecting on personal strengths is enough.
For others, it may be helpful to find tools to help us keep track of our thoughts and reflections, such as paper or digital journals. Keeping track of these things also allows us to see the progress and changes that we’ve made over time.
If writing things down isn’t manageable, making audio recordings of our thoughts on the matter will also allow us to go back through previous thoughts to measure the distance we’ve covered on our self-improvement journeys.
Getting help from a mental health professional who uses Positive Psychology in their practice can also be incredibly helpful. Get started down the road toward better well-being when you book a free, brief consultation with me using the tools below or find a mental health counselor in your area.
I serve individuals who live in Houston, Texas and throughout the state, with a specialized focus on those who are polyamorous, ethically non-monogamous, swingers, or otherwise alternatively inclined. My personal mission is to help those who struggle to accept themselves or live life authentically. Together, we will work to rewrite your future exactly how you want it to be.